Friday 23 November 2012

Global pressure against Taib’s mega dams

 The Bruno Manser Fund wants Sarawak Energy Bhd to declare its finances, contracts and funders linked to the development of mega dams in Sarawak.

KUCHING: Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), which has been at the forefront of a global campaign against Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s land “development” policy which has stripped the state’s verdant rainforest and displaced thousands of indigenous natives, is calling for an independent external review of the Bakun, Bengoh and Batang Ai dams.

It is also demanding for a moratorium on all Sarawak dam construction and for Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), a key player in the development, to sack its chairman, Hamed Abdul Sepawi.
BMF also wants SEB to declare its finances, contracts and funders.

It is also exerting pressure on foreign corporations, which it alleged were closely linked to Taib’s global business empire, to shun the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE)
It claimed “any involvement in Taib government’s hydropower programme is inextricably linked to corruption, environmental damage and human rights violations”.

In a report released today entitled “Sold Down the River. How Sarawak Dam Plans Compromise the Future of Malaysia’s Indigenous Peoples”, BMF disclosed that many of companies involved were closely linked to Taib and to his family-linked Cahaya Mata Sarawak (CMS).

“Foreign corporate actors, such as Australia’s Hydro Tasmania, Snowy Mountains Engineering Company (SMEC), GHD, the US consultant MWH Global, Norway’s Norconsult, Germany’s Fichtner and construction companies such as China’s Three Gorges Corporation and Sinohydro have concluded a ‘pact with the devil’ and are assisting the Taib government with its dam projects,” it said.

The report also named the “funding agencies” behind the Sarawak dam plans to include RHB Bank, EON Bank and AmInvestment Bank alongside Kuwait Finance House and Kenanga Investment Bank, which is a joint venture between CMS and Deutsche Bank.

The report further examined the dam plans that form part of SCORE, which is seen as “Southeast Asia’s most ambitious and most expensive energy project”.

The project, BMF noted, has a “planned investments of up to US$105 billion by 2030”.

According to BMF, some tens of thousands of indigenous people affected by the massive project are facing forced displacement from their traditional lands.

Sarawak has ‘excess’ power

The report noted that under the guise of “development”, the Taib government is planning to virtually dam all the rivers in the state’s interior, irrespective of the social and environmental implications.

“The dam plans are being pushed ahead under a cloak of secrecy. If implemented, they would entail the cultural genocide of a significant part of Sarawak’s rich indigenous culture,” it said.

A first series of 12 dams is currently being implemented by SEB, which holds monopoly on the state’s power supply.

The report stressed the fact that Sarawak is already facing a “excess power” situation.

“The current peak demand in Sarawak is around 1,000 megawatts (MW) and is thus far less than the power that can be produced by the recently completed Bakun dam alone, which, with a capacity of 2400 MW, is Asia’s largest dam outside China.”

BMF said that the Taib government and SEB, as the implementing agency, were facing increasing opposition from the affected communities.

“Representatives of SAVE Rivers, a Sarawak network set up to fight the Taib government’s dam plans, are currently embarking on a tour through Australia.

“The Hydro Tasmania-out-of-Sarawak tour is aimed at increasing the pressure on publicly-owned Hydro Tasmania, one of the most important corporate actors involved in the Sarawak dam plans,” it noted.

On Tuesday, Save Rivers chairman Peter Kallang said the tour aimed to enlighten Australians on the situation with the dams and urge the locals to pressure the Australian government into compelling Hydro Tasmania to rescind its decision to participate in the venture.

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